Stunning opening stage for TGR in Saudi Arabia

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing started its Dakar 2024 campaign in style, with four of its five crews finishing in the Top 10. Stage 1 was a tricky test of 414 km, with a final liaison of 46 km bringing the cars to the bivouac at Al Henakiyah. It was a power performance by the works GR Hilux EVO crews, and the team finds itself in a strong position for Stage 2.

Giniel de Villiers and co-driver, Dennis Murphy, were the pick of the bunch, despite starting the race in 68th position after a tough Prologue. The pair powered through the field, and despite having to stop for a minor field repair to their car, they set the third-fastest time on the opening stage. Their deficit to the overall leader was only 9min 18sec, but their starting position for Stage 2 may pose some challenges as a result.

Brazilian Lucas Moraes and his Spanish co-driver, Armand Monleon, made the most of the tough stage. The pair drove at a measured pace, but suffered a right-front puncture shortly before the mid-point of the stage. Despite this setback, the TGR crew powered to a sixth-place finish on the stage, trailing the leaders by 13min 25sec.

It was a dream start to the Dakar for rookie Guy Botterill. Partnered with the experienced Brett Cummings as co-driver, the South African started his first ever Dakar Rally in fine style. The former rally driver set a blistering pace throughout the stage, climbing as high as second overall, before dropping down to 7th place shortly before the end of the stage, following a problem with a suspension part.

At the same time, rookie driver Saood Variawa recorded a perfectly clean run - no punctures, no problems. The young South African, partnered with Frenchman, Francois Cazalet, not only completed his first ever Dakar stage, but also set the 10th-fastest time in the process. It was a powerful statement from one of the youngest works drivers in the history of the race.

Seth Quintero and co-driver, Dennis Zenz, recorded a largely uneventful stage. They suffered one puncture early on, but then settled into a cautious pace that allowed them to bring the GR Hilux EVO home safely, setting the 21st-fastest time on the day. They are 23 min 24 sec behind the leaders - well within striking distance if the conditions allow. The pair will be eager to start a climb up the leader board over the next few stages.

Next up is Stage 2, which takes the rally from the bivouac at Al Henakiyah to the town of Al Duwadimi, via a timed stage of 462 km. A liaison of 73 km will take the crews from the bivouac to the start of the stage, while a 119 km liaison will take them from the end of the stage to the next bivouac.


Shameer Variawa, SVR Team Principal: "Stage 1 was a very good one for the team. All five our GR Hilux EVOs performed extremely well, and there were very few technical issues along the way. I'm very pleased with our results today, and can only hope for more of these days over the next two weeks."

Giniel de Villiers: "A very tough day! I'm just glad we finished in the daylight. You know we started quite late, we started as the 68th car on the road. So, I knew today was going to be very tricky in the dust and I don't know how many cars we passed, but it was many. We lost a little bit of time with a minor field repair to our car, but other than that, we had a clean day. We are very happy to be here, and very happy with the result. Obviously, with the dust, we lost a lot of time, so our result could have been even better. But we'll take third on the stage, that's for sure!"

Lucas Moraes: "A very tough, physically demanding stage. Also tough for the car, and we got a puncture in the middle of the race because we were in the dust the whole time. But the car is perfect and the team delivered a great car. We're very happy with our results from the first stage."

Guy Botterill: "Well in the beginning we didn't see much because we were just covered in dust, but then it opened up quite nicely. Then we entered what looked like the moon. It was lava flows and huge rocks and boulders and it was very strange as we were there by ourselves and it was very difficult to judge the pace, so we took it easy. Once it opened up again, it was very comfortable in the car and everything was going well. Unfortunately, just 7km before the finish, we had a technical issue with a suspension part, so we lost a bit of time there but I'm really happy to be at the end of Stage 1 at the Dakar."

Saood Variawa: "It was quite something! I mean honestly, I didn't expect it to be that difficult. The first 250kms were good, and we kept a decent pace. We got stuck in the dust of a side-by-side for a while, but nonetheless we made it to the end, and I'm looking forward to Stage 2."

Seth Quintero: "Yeah, I mean, all things considered, I don't think it was the toughest start for us at least. Five hours out and it was rocks the size of soccer balls the whole time. So, I mean, it was one of those stages where I knew a lot of the top dogs were playing it smart with the experience they have, and I'm just trying to follow along, learning every day. The car felt comfortable all day long, and we had no issues. Unfortunately, we had one little puncture, but it is what it is that's gonna happen when you're driving over rocks at high speeds."


1. #221 G. de Mevius / X. Panseri

(Overdrive Racing)

04H 35’ 59”

2. #204 C. Sainz / L. Cruz

(Team Audi Sport)

+ 01: 44

3. #209 G. De Villiers / D. Murphy

(Toyota GAZOO Racing)

+ 09:18

4. #214 V. Zala / P. Fiuza

(X-Raid Arijus Team)

+ 10:42

5. #231 R. Dumas / M. Delfino 

(Rebillion Racing)

+ 12:18

6. #206 L. Moraes / A. Monleon

(Toyota GAZOO Racing)

+ 13:25

7. #243 G. Botterill / B. Cummings

(Toyota GAZOO Racing)

+ 13:39

8. #201 Y. Al Rajhi / T. Gottschalk

(Overdrive Racing)

+ 13: 39

9. #212 M. Serradori / L. Minaudier

(Century Racing Factory Team)

+ 14:12

10. #207 M.Ekstrom / E. Bergkvist

(Team Audi Sport)

+ 14:20

11. #226 S. Variawa / F. Cazalet

(Toyota GAZOO Racing)

+ 14:34

12. #216 S.Quintero / D. Zenz

(Toyota GAZOO Racing)

+ 23:24